Is customer support dead?

When we think of customer support, we think of being held on the phone, listening to some pre-recorded robotic voice programmed to “understand” our needs, and pressing (what’s hopefully the right) keys to meet its demands. Then we’re met with a clueless representative on the other end.

When we think of all the times we’ve had bad customer service, we wonder how it is that companies leave so much on the table by not caring. Or maybe it’s not “not caring”, but not realizing the golden opportunity that’s sitting in front of them. The opportunity to make a good human-to-human connection.

Your customer support team are among the few people in the company who have repeated and direct contact with your customers. This contact is both invaluable for making sure their customers are happy, but also has a huge impact on a company’s branding. The way a company deals with its customers speaks more towards its brand and values than any advertising campaign.

In other words, it’s about time you start seeing your customer support reps as the most serious brand patrons you’ve got. They are your Guardians of the Customer Experience.

In order to ensure a great customer experience (and get that loyal customer base we’re after), we turned our focus to establishing an loyal support team first.

The first and most crucial part? To get them motivated.

Here are 5 steps we took to motivate our Customer Support team:

1. Ask the People On Your Team What They Want

Get to know your team. Find out what’s driving them by asking them the 3 Most Important Questions to realize their goals. We know people do their best work when working on something they really love, so instead of trying to shoehorn new hires into a certain way of work we instead try to understand how we can benefit from that person’s own talents and passions. Once we know what they are passionate about, we encourage them to incorporate this passion into the support they give. The result is a highly personal and emotional connection with our customers.

Once you understand the emotional side of your employee’s working style, sit down with them and talk productivity. Ask them about their current workflow and try to get them to put a number to the amount of emails, phone calls or Facebook messages they think they can reply to in a day (or an hour).

2. Set a Dynamic Goal

The next step is setting a clear goal – but not just any goal. Goal-setting in the traditional way can actually be more harmful than motivating. When you have a singular, static goal you either (a) hit it, and stop working or (b) miss it and feel like a failure. Instead, we try to goal set in a way that keeps our employees in flow.

What we want to do is quantify progress towards a vision, but at the end of the day it’s the vision itself that’s important. So we try not to tie our happiness to hitting or missing goals. To get around this pitfall we use the minimum-target-outrageous model of goal setting and compare our team’s current performance to what they think they can achieve.

What we do then is set three distinct goals. The first is a Minimum goal. One that – based on our history and track record – we know we can easily achieve. Then we set a Target goal (“goal” in the normal sense. Something that’s in reach but not impossible). Lastly we set an Outrageous goal – one we know is hard to achieve and can only be met if everything went in our favor.

We’ve found that it’s best to keep these goals to a simple measurable number (like email cases resolved, call center answer rate, or tweets replied to) and communicate the goals openly with the team.

At the end of each month we re-evaluate our goals and consider setting new ones. It’s this process that makes the goals “dynamic”, since they’re always changing based on new workload and business realities.

Within three months of setting these kind of goals we saw productivity raised by 45% and even had two agents hit their outrageous goals (ones that, three months earlier, thought were nearly impossible).

3. Ask Your Customers to Rate the Service They Receive

There are various services out there to help get feedback from your customers on how you’re doing – try them. We like to use Nicereply for email support. By asking customers how happy they are with the service we provide we gained valuable insights into what we might be able to fix (and avoid a barrage of emails/calls in the first place) or get an idea for the next feature you should develop.

4. Combine 2 & 3 Into a Single Number and Give It a Catchy Name

We call ours “Awesomeness Quotient”.

Combine the percentage of goal the team achieved (from #2) with customer satisfaction (from #3) to get one “big” number to benchmark by – Awesomeness Quotient (AQ for short). This is a number everyone on the team can focus on to encourage a balance of productivity and customer satisfaction, two basics we hold in high regard with everything we do.

Then we treat this number like a high score in a video game. We keep records of past high scores, challenge ourselves, and every week try to do better than the last one.

We’ve sometimes found that our weekly AQ score doesn’t always communicate the full story of the team’s work during the week, but it reminds us of our priorities and keeps our minds on the customer first.


We’ve seen a 13% improvement in our speed of service and quality of service since implementing AQ September 1st 2012.


5. Reward High Achievers

When you hit your goals it’s time for celebration. Publicly recognize and reward the people on the team who hit their goals.

We also have one big reward if the team as a whole hits our “Outrageous” goal. Perhaps a free round trip flight to Disney World Hong Kong. Or maybe a beach getaway in Bali.


Digging into a delicious 5-star dinner after we hit our Target goal.

We’ve found that since we implemented these 5 things, not only has our service level gone up – but so has our agent retention as well. The team is not only more productive, but the energy level is higher too. People are motivated to get involved and love to see their that contribution has an immediate impact.

Customer support is dead, but out of its ashes rises the phoenix of Customer Experience. So don’t blow your golden opportunity by working with an unmotivated and robotic customer support team. Start aiming high, keep score, and don’t forget every individual appreciates (and deserves) human connection.


What have you found helps motivate your team?  How do you measure how your team’s effectiveness?  Leave your comments below.



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